October 7, 2013 (Washington D.C.) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a broad public health alert due to 278 illnesses in 18 states caused by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg. The illnesses, which are mainly in California, are believed to be associated with raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California.
The investigation has not yet been able to narrow the contamination down to a specific product or production period. Raw products from the facilities in question bear one of these inside a USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the package: P6137, P6137A or P7632.,The products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington State.
The outbreak is continuing. Illnesses were linked to Foster Farms brand chicken through epidemiologic, laboratory and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is partnering with state health departments to monitor the outbreak while FSIS continues its investigation.
FSIS is prepared to take additional actions or expand the investigation based on new evidence.
FSIS reminds consumers to properly handle raw poultry in a manner to prevent contamination from spreading to other foods and food contact surfaces.
FSIS further reminds consumers of the critical importance of following package cooking instructions for frozen or fresh chicken products and general food safety guidelines when handling and preparing any raw meat or poultry.
In particular, while cooking instructions may give a specific number of minutes of cooking for each side of the product in order to attain 165 °F internal temperature, consumers should be aware that actual time may vary depending on the cooking method (broiling, frying, or grilling) and the temperature of the product (chilled versus frozen) so it is important that the final temperature of 165 °F must be reached for safety.
Do not rely on the cooking time for each side of the product, but use a food thermometer.All poultry products should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F as determined by a food thermometer. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know that food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria.
Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days.
Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.